Basilica Minore de San Sebastian
No, this isn’t an early Visita Inglesia post in Manila nor did I shoot a wedding here, it just so happen that there’s a wedding being held at San Sebastian Basilica Church when I was there. I was supposed to shoot a few scenes around the neighborhood of Malacañang, the country’s seat of the government, as a minor assignment for a publication I regularly contribute at. My route was the same as Ivan Mandy’s San Miguel Walking tour, but since I’m no historian, I pulled out a fellow blogger, Tito of Tutubi Patrol, whose more adept to history than I am and we were also joined by another photographer/writer Joselle for a short walk around the San Miguel District in Manila.
They walked down this aisle
For some time now, I’ve always wanted to take pictures of of this impressive San Sebastian Basilica Church also known as Basilica Minore de San Sebastian. Even through my college years at the near by FEU, I only got to admire the gothic towers when passing by the streets of Recto. Even before Christmas, I’ve always planned of capturing the impressive lighting it has during Simbang Gabi, but those plans never saw fruition. It’s great that now I finally get a chance to actually visit this place. And also to further field test my new 12-60mm Zuiko lens when I was there.
Really impressive church interiors
San Sebastian Basilica is the jump-off point for the San Miguel Tour. This Basilica is one of the heritage wonders of not only in Quiapo, Manila, but also in Asia as it is the First and Only steel church in Asia and 2nd to the world. The original design for the church was done in 1883. The actual structure was pre-assembled in Belgium and shipped in parts by ship, 6 times to the Philippines. However, the stained glass windows of the church was made in France.
Beautiful Stained glasses made in France
Knowing more about the history of the church made me admire it more. Going inside is even more telling. Its architecture is just astounding especially mixed with the dramatic lighting within the church. Why didn’t I visit this place any sooner?
What I am saddened about this church is the facade. Is that rust I see? Since this is made of steel they should take care of this as this may spread out soon. How about spraying those walls with a truckload of WD40. I hope the City Government, or even the government itself think more about preserving this structure.
Abbey of our Lady of Montserrat
After the Basilica, we had a short walk to Mendiola where a sad sight of barbed wire fences had unseemingly become a permanent fixture in that street in case violent protest suddenly break out. Several universities line up on the street of Mendiola and along San Beda College is this little Chapel called Abbey of our Lady of Montserrat and on some maps, it is simply called the Benedictine Abbey. At first it seems hard to spot this little structure as it looks like a part of the university only to be given way by the cross on one of its towers.
Benedictine Abbey Church Interiors
The marker on the front gate says: “In 1895 a group of Benedictine monks from the Abbey of Montserrat in Spain came to the Philippines and worked as missionaries and pastors in Surigao. Later they moved to Manila and in 1901 founded San Beda College. The community was raised to a priory in 1904 and in 1925 was elevated to the rank of Abbey with the titular of Our Lady of Montserrat.”
Abbey Bamboo organ
At first, we thought that the place was closed, thankfully a man at the front with a bike just told us to ring the doorbell. And so we did and there’s this bald guy who’s keeping watch of the place at that time opened the door. He was very accommodating and we were allowed to take pictures inside.
Stained Glass Doors
Honestly, for a small chapel I was once again impressed with the level of details put into the interiors of the church. Even without the lights on, the interior is very dramatic. From the wall designs, ceiling paintings, altar and even the Bamboo Organ looks great.
St. Benedict Medallions Macro
What I also noticed at the reception hall were large plates of St Benedict medals. I immediately asked if they were selling any of these medallions and he said yes. I was ecstatic since I’ve been looking for one lately. I found one on ebay and they were selling it for 500 pesos which is way way expensive than the original price here. I also asked if these medallions were blessed by the priest and indeed they were so I got a couple, a large bronze one to leave at home and another one to bring along. I am no catholic nor very religious but I believe there are some power items in the world that works like a charm and this medallion is one which can offer additional God’s protection to its wearer.
San Miguel Church
Next stop would be passing by the old mansions and heading for the San Miguel Church. At first we tried to pass by the gates nearby, but since we don’t have any reservations we just asked direction and they led us to another way, the pedestrian entrance found at San Rafael street. We walked by the community inside the palace and noticed the curfews implemented inside like no one is allowed to be in the streets pass 10pm. We passed by old mansions but was a bit hesitant to take pictures since I have no permit. Also we reached this freedom park just in front the walls of the actual palace.
San Miguel Church and Impressive Bronze Sculpture
Walking still, we finally found the San Miguel Church just pass the security gates of Malacañang. This used the seat of the Archdiocese of Manila for several years after the Manila Cathedral was damaged by the war. Now it is one of the most booked churches for weddings since a lot of Celebrities said their vows here, including the former President and ka tukayo (same birth date as well) Ferdinand Marcos with wife Imelda Romualdez. In front of the church is a sculpture of an Angel fighting a Dragon. I don’t know the title but it was donated by Antonio Cabangon Chua. Seems to be made of bronze and is very detailed sculpture.
This is somehow our last stop at the area since it was getting dark a bit earlier than usual, especially with the heavy clouds during our walk. It was a pleasant stroll here and I maybe considering joining one of those guided tours here as well in the future.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.